Farmers' markets offer different strokes for different folks

February 19, 2010

URBANA -- Farmers' markets are not created equal. Some sell only fresh produce while others offer entertainment and a wide variety of vendors. And each market's unique personality attracts some people while repelling others. A University of Illinois study revealed that based on what they offer, farmers' markets self-select people who are on a specific mission -- and visiting other retail stores isn't one of them.

"Not one of the six farmers' markets we visited in the city of Chicago and suburbs drew any business to any of the other retailers on the same day as the farmers' market," said U of I economist Michael Mazzocco. "That's not to say that there isn't an occasional person. But on the questionnaire we asked 'how many other retailers have you visited or will you visit on this trip?' and the answer was zero."

Mazzocco concluded that market organizers are mistaken if they are counting on a farmers' market to bring in more traffic in retail stores. "The farmers' markets may build awareness of other stores for future trips, but we did not investigate that."

So, what does bring people to the market?

"Each farmers' market attracts those who they subconsciously, inadvertently, want to attract," Mazzocco said. "For example, the Oak Park farmers' market is the only one where we found a majority of men, and a larger proportion of money than anywhere else we went was spent on food consumed on site. People were there to buy coffee and donuts, roam around downtown, and visit with their friends."

Mazzocco compared the mission of the Oak Park Saturday morning market shopper to those at Hyde Park on a Thursday afternoon. "The Oak Park stroll-around-with-coffee-and-donut is a mission. They tend to buy some produce while they are there. They might not. At Hyde Park, the mission is to get off the CTA on your way home from work, buy some produce and continue your route home. If you are stopping on your way home from work and you just want to get your zucchini and go home, you won't stop at a market with a carnival atmosphere because all of the people engaged in entertainment and social causes are in your way."

The point is, markets are going to turn some people on and turn some people off, he said.

The study identified five preference-based consumer segments: market enthusiasts, recreational shoppers, serious shoppers, low-involved shoppers, and basic shoppers - each with significantly different demographics and behavior characteristics.

Mazzocco advises market organizers to pay attention to community demographics for indicators of their potential and actual customers.

"We don't want to tell market organizers who they should be targeting. All we can tell them is they are targeting something, whether intentionally or not. And, what works one place, may not work somewhere else."

Adding a market at the same location but at a different time or day may actually draw the same customers. "We learned that people are not monogamous when it comes to farmers' markets," Mazzocco said. "If they're going to a farmers' market on a Saturday, they will generally go to the same one. But a Thursday afternoon farmers' market can augment Saturday's and get the same customers. Some people will go twice, perhaps because they have run out of what they bought on Saturday. So, it's about freshness."

Mazzocco said the study got a strong message from people that buying fresh is an important feature, but not necessarily organic. "People going to the market expected to find organic, but weren't going there specifically for it. They expected to see it there and to be one of their choices, but that wasn't why they were going there."

Two other points of interest in the study were that food safety was something market shoppers cared about, and, on average, people spent about $20 per person, per visit.

At the six market locations, 508 questionnaires were completed, out of which 383 were useful.

Consumer Segments in Urban and Suburban Farmers Markets, co-written by Gabriel Elepu, will be published in the April, 2010 issue of International Food and Agribusiness Management Review.
-end-


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Fresh Produce Articles from Brightsurf:

Fresh tumor biopsies in world-first technique for cancer treatments
An innovative technique to improve cancer treatments using tumour biopsies less than 30 minutes after they're taken has been developed at The University of Queensland.

In the Arctic, spring snowmelt triggers fresh CO2 production
Studies have shown the Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the world, and its soil holds twice the amount of carbon dioxide as the atmosphere.

Egg-based coating preserves fresh produce
Eggs that would otherwise be wasted can be used as the base of an inexpensive coating to protect fruits and vegetables.

New dual-action coating keeps bacteria from cross-contaminating fresh produce
Over the course of their journey from the open fields to the produce displays at grocery stores, fresh vegetables and fruits can sometimes become contaminated by microorganisms.

Fresh groundwater flow important for coastal ecosystems
Groundwater is the largest source of freshwater, one of the world's most precious natural resources and vital for crops and drinking water.

Fresh clean drinking water for all could soon to be a reality in Pakistan
A fresh, clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan, particularly in South Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government, alongside other key stakeholders, and driven by the University of Huddersfield.

Brewing beer that tastes fresh longer
Unlike wine, which generally improves with time, beer does not age well.

Harvesting fog can provide fresh water in desert regions
Fog harvesting is a potential practical source of fresh water in foggy coastal deserts, and current solutions rely on meter scale nets/meshes.

Fresh water found in the Norwegian Sea
The discovery was made at 800 meters below the surface in two small canyons on the continental slope outside Lofoten archipelago.

FRESH 3D printing used to rebuild functional components of human heart
Scientists are a major step closer to 3D bioprintng functional organs, after team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers devise a method of rebuilding components of the human heart, according to a study published in Science.

Read More: Fresh Produce News and Fresh Produce Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.